North Monroe might just be Spokane’s coolest urban district. It’s about to get even cooler.

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This draft design shows what the redevelopment and targeted investment might look like at Monroe and Montgomery. Note the wider sidewalks, more pedestrian-friendly environment, lighted crosswalks, and abundant on-street parking. (PHOTO: Land Expressions/City of Spokane)

North Monroe might just be the coolest urban district in Spokane. In addition to the abundance of hip shops, restaurants, and bars which have recently opened or relocated to the area, which stitches together the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood, the corridor has for many years played host to one of the best collections of antique and vintage shops in Washington State. Between Boulevard Mercantile, Tossed & Found, 1889 Salvage Co., and many others, thrift shoppers and vintage enthusiasts have an abundance of options and opportunities to search for hidden treasures. In recent years, the district has also added a number of boutique retail and other shops, like Brickyard Barbershop and Kingsley & Scout.

But the real magic of North Monroe might not even be the craft coffee at Vessel Coffee Roasting, the craft beer at Bellwether, or the food at Prohibition. No, the real magic of North Monroe lies in its inherent contradictions. Like Spokane, it lies at the bleeding edge between the positively mundane and the relentlessly urban. Not content to pick just one, it embraces the past, present, and future all at once, playing host to vintage shops, craft coffee roasters and breweries, and the creative, positive Urban Art Co-Op. The district reflects the polarized nature of our city and our nation, as typified by both the aggressive, hostile signs seen in the windows businesses like Azar’s and the warm, welcoming spirit of the North Monroe Business District social media presence, which attempts to support all businesses in the area––not just the ones with which they agree. Like Spokane, North Monroe has one foot in each camp of the new urban divide, constantly questioning what it wants to become, while simultaneously exuding everything that’s hip, cool, artsy, and entrepreneurial about the city.

That might just make North Monroe our most interesting, coolest urban district in one of the coolest neighborhoods—Emerson-Garfield.

And now, thanks to the leadership of numerous highly-dedicated area residents, city staff, and our elected officials, this urban district is about to get a lot more attractive. The City of Spokane has announced that the North Monroe redevelopment will be moving forward as planned, with construction beginning in spring 2018. The project, which will add various pedestrian- and business-friendly features, such as wider sidewalks, curb bulb-outs, enhanced and widened parking, street trees, among other amenities, would create the opportunity for the district to evolve into an urban neighborhood on par with South Perry, Garland, or West Broadway. In addition, it will widen the traffic lanes while narrowing the street as a whole, going from four to three lanes total and making driving a more hassle-free experience. Taken together, these types of traffic improvements induce visitors to stay longer, spend more, and return more often. And stay more safe! For a vibrant urban district like North Monroe, that’s huge––and it will greatly benefit local business owners.

In the meantime, it will be critical for agencies and organizations like the City of Spokane, Spokane Transit, Avista, and all of the others which will be performing work associated with this project to perform broad, intentional outreach to affected business owners. Construction can take a significant toll on businesses, and it’s now on project supporters to prove that this is the right investment for the right time in Spokane history. The North Monroe Business District will also be performing outreach, and we encourage readers of this blog to patronize the affected businesses––even those which oppose this project––over the course of construction.

In addition, the City of Spokane should consider including a generous bonus in the construction contract for an early completion. This would entice the general contractors to speed up work––potentially even by working through nights and weekends––to complete the project has quickly as possible, minimizing impact on the businesses and organizations along the corridor.

In the end, though, North Monroe will certainly be better off for it. The coolest urban district in Spokane will become immeasurably cooler, and the businesses along the corridor will be the primary beneficiaries of easier access, increased and friendlier parking, and a more walkable urban environment that invites residents to participate in the community, rather than stay in their homes and cars. North Monroe may even surpass South Perry or Garland as a “destination neighborhood.” But even if it doesn’t, the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood, the community, and the city will all gain. I am super excited to walk down North Monroe, grab a coffee at Vessel, keep wandering down the street through the local thrift and vintage shops, like Boulevard Mercantile, then finish with Happy Hour at Prohibition or Bellwether. And I hope you all are too.

COMING UP: This weekend, join neighborhood residents, community groups, and local nonprofits to brighten up and improve the North Monroe area at Cleaning from the Corridor. A number of teams will be volunteering in the district, and it gives you an opportunity to meet local business owners and community leaders as you improve the neighborhood. Find more information at the link above.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Is North Monroe the coolest neighborhood in Spokane? What’s your favorite business or restaurant in the district, and why? Are you excited about the planned revitalization and reconstruction of the street? And would you invest in the corridor, given the opportunity? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you!

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KREM incites NIMBYs over Browne’s Addition project; everyone else yawns

Yes, the loss of two arguably-historic homes is sad, but let's not turn to hyperbole. The replacement will also add something to the historic Browne's Addition neighborhood. (PHOTO: Fusion Architecture)

Yes, the loss of two arguably-historic homes is sad, but let’s not turn to hyperbole. The replacement will also add something to the historic Browne’s Addition neighborhood. (PHOTO: Fusion Architecture)

Okay, so the loss of two arguably-historic homes is indeed tragic, and we certainly should try to preserve historic buildings wherever possible. But we can’t help but feel that the hyperbole surrounding this project on KREM and other pages would be better directed at helping building owners discover the benefits of historic registration, or some similar pursuit. Because let’s face it: the homes’ replacement will certainly add something to the Browne’s Addition neighborhood as well. And let’s not forget that similarly-aged homes are frequently torn down elsewhere in North America due to their relatively young age.

Specifically, the “Browne’s Addition Apartments” (we’re really getting creative project names here) will add 21 new apartment units at 2335 W 3rd Ave in Spokane. The building will feature underground parking and, evidently, balconies for added space outdoors. We certainly won’t say that the architecture is particularly distinctive or noteworthy, but it is something new for the neighborhood, and a certain level of variety in housing options can only be a good thing. Let’s just hope that the next project is more of an extensive remodel than a total tear-down.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Should this developer have tried harder to save the units that once stood on this site? Are you excited to see a new project in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood? Share your thoughts below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or in person. We love to hear from you.

What is Density? A Brief Explainer Video

Through the use of strong zoning guidelines, incentivized infill, and the city working with developers, Vancouver has gradually become one of the most dense cities in North America. (PHOTO: Planetizen)

With urban development becoming a hot topic around the Spokane area, we figured it would be helpful if we made a quick explainer video on density. Density refers to the amount of development within a given area, and it can have pretty broad implications for urban sprawl, vibrancy, transit, and even public health.

Watch the video on Adobe’s website, here.

After you watch, come back to this page and add your thoughts. Does Spokane have a healthy density balance? How can we prioritize increased density in the Spokane area? How can we increase the benefits of density while limiting its downsides? Comment on this post with your thoughts, or chime in on Facebook and Twitter. We love to hear from you!

South Perry drug bust garage set for pedestrian-friendly studio-style space

This garage was the site of a drug bust several years ago. Now it's on the market.

This garage was the site of a drug bust about a year ago. Now it’s on the market.

Remember this garage? You know, the one in South Perry that was the site of a massive drug bust almost exactly a year ago? Well, it’s now on the market, and new owner NAI Black (think Dave Black) is looking for businesses that would be interested in moving into a brand new studio-style space. Zoned CC1-NC (Neighborhood Commercial within a “pedestrian-oriented, auto-accommodating” District Center), the 11,700 sf parcel is set for a pretty nice-looking 5,000 sf building with two suites that should fit in well with the new Perry Street Brewing/Woolnik’s Building. There’s a nice, wide sidewalk, street trees, garage-style doors, and a small parking lot in the rear. And while it’s unclear right now which businesses James Black is eyeing as tenants, dining, retail, and office (think architecture studio) is all on the table.

Jump after the break for the site plan and a nice-looking rendering.

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TONIGHT: Summit for Neighborhood Fairness, Part II

The South Perry District is frequently cited as one of the “most livable” or “best” or “coolest” neighborhoods in Spokane. Will future development follow the pattern of South Perry or Garland, or degrade into surface parking and big-box stores? (PHOTO: Spokesman-Review)

Tonight, join community leaders, elected officials, and smart growth advocates at Part Two of the Summit for Neighborhood Fairness. Futurewise Spokane will convene a diverse group of representatives and stakeholders for the second of two public fora on empowering our neighborhoods and prioritizing denser infill development in accordance with existing planning documents. As you’ll recall, the dialogue over smart growth and land use reached a fever pitch last month when it was discovered that Scott Chesney and the Planning Department had approved a building permit for a drive-through-only McDonald’s restaurant on north Hamilton, and that Dave Black had violated Centers and Corridors zoning and the 2009 Developers’ Agreement at his Target development on the South Hill.

Part One of this summit focused on possible policy proposals, while Part Two will focus on choosing the best solutions and crafting a plan toward implementation. It’s clear that land use policy and neighborhood development has quickly become the number one issue in Spokane’s political system. It should be interesting to see where this planning and policy proposal process leads.

  • Join us at the Summit for Neighborhood Fairness, tonight from 5:30p – 7:30p at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. Neighborhood representatives, community leaders, activists, legal experts, and other stakeholders will all be represented.

This Week in Public Meetings: 4/24 – 5/2

At the former U.S. Pavilion, the Parks Board is discussing recovering the structure with a movable dome that could feature revolving light displays or projections. (PHOTO: Spokane Riverfront Park on Facebook)

At the former U.S. Pavilion, the Parks Board is discussing recovering the structure with a movable dome that could feature revolving light displays or projections. (PHOTO: Spokane Riverfront Park on Facebook)

Okay, kinda-sorta a week. A lot of major issues are up for discussion in the coming days, and we urge readers of The #spokanerising Project to make a strong showing in support of our parks, our neighborhoods, and our communities.

Special Parks Board Meeting: Riverfront Park Master Plan. We’ve written extensively in the past about plans for Riverfront Park. Tonight, Thursday, April 24, the Parks Board will be hosting the second public comment period on the Riverfront Park Master Plan. Public testimony will be taken from 6-8pm in the City Council chambers. Free parking is available for participants in the Riverfront Park lots.

Summit for Neighborhood Fairness: Part II (The Strategy). Futurewise Spokane is collaborating with Spokane City Councilmembers, community groups, and neighborhoods to host a forum on possible policy changes that could result in more livable communities and environments. Participants will prioritize proposals and develop a clear strategy for their implementation. This will take place Wednesday, April 30 from 5:30p-7:30p at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. More information is available here.

Proposed Land Use Action: A Workshop for Neighborhoods. Futurewise Spokane will be working with neighborhood groups and its Director of Planning and Law, Tim Trohimovich to enlighten neighborhoods on strategies for land use proposals. Tim will be speaking about navigating the land use process, SEPA, and permitting processes. This will take place Thursday, May 1 at 2:30p at the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. More information is available here.

These meetings are important for developing a strategy for Spokane’s future development and planning. We encourage readers to attend and offer a vision of a vibrant, denser, more livable Spokane where people love to live.

Kendall Yards #Progress: March 23, 2014

This mixed-use building at Kendall Yards will feature retail and restaurant space on the bottom floor and two stories of residential lofts on the upper floors.

This mixed-use building at Kendall Yards will feature retail and restaurant space on the bottom floor and two stories of residential lofts on the upper floors. Photo taken March 23, 2014.

Spring has sprung at Kendall Yards. The new urbanist/mixed use development near downtown has taken on a decidedly more urban (and local) feel of late, as Greenstone focuses on three new buildings in the neighborhood’s commercial district. With Yards Bruncheon now complete, construction is focused on Wandering Table next door, a building that will be the new permanent home for Veraci Pizza, and a new three-story mixed use building with streetfront retail and residential units above called the Highline Lofts. While some leases for the building are presumed to be signed, we only have confirmation that Brain Freeze Creamery will occupy the suite closest to Wandering Table on the western-most side of the building.

With all of these local restaurants joining Central Food, it’s pretty clear that the neighborhood has become a venue of choice for homegrown local businesses much more in line with reality than the Marshall Chesrown/Black Rock designs we saw (and salivated over) in 2006. We’re excited to see which tenants are lined up for the almost-complete Highline Lofts building, when a proposed four-story mixed-use building between Veraci Pizza and Spa Paradiso will break ground, and what will become of the rest of the neighborhood, especially with plans for additional surface parking in lieu of underground garages in the commercial district. Just try to keep that aspect to a minimum, okay, Greenstone?

For more construction and progress photos, hop along after the break.

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